The Social Progress Index (SPI) is a tool that measures and scores the world based on a country’s environment and society. It shows results at country level based on the themes of Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity. It asks the questions:
- Does a country provide for its people’s most essential needs?
- Are the building blocks in place for people to improve their lives?
- Is there opportunity for people to improve their position in society?
The scorecard uses a traffic light system to show country performance. Green shows relative strength, amber means neutral or typical results, and red indicates relative weakness. Have a look at this presentation on SlideShare and see how your own country scores.
I like the fairness of the SPI approach through its like-for-like comparison. It’s based on research that produced a methodology to find and group “economic peers”. I also think that the focus makes a lot of sense for a dynamic world view. Even the name of the Social Progress Index is forward-looking. It invites positive change and improvement.
Let’s look at a couple of examples. Take Luxembourg. This is the highest ranked country – according to GDP per capita – from the selection of the 133 indexed countries. But Luxembourg’s SPI scorecard is mostly ambers and reds, and contains only three green blocks, when analysed against the three questions above. A GDP assessment misses depth and detail. In countries like Angola, with high GDP scores, there is so much more to the picture than the health of its economy.
South Africa is compared to 15 “economic peer” countries including Colombia, Costa Rica, Tunisia, and China. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita and SPI rank are very close: 63/133 (SPI) and 62/133 (GDP per capita).
Notable red blocks are Tolerance for immigrants, Quality of electricity supply, and Level of violent crime; all features of the local and international reputation that SA is often popularly reduced to. And clearly with reason. But there are shining green blocks next to Press freedom index, Tolerance for homosexuals, and Number of globally ranked universities. Do we recognise and celebrate these greens enough? How can we influence the reds positively, for change? And what do we need to do to raise the neutral scores?
I think the Opportunity pillar is key for SA; for the same reason that I believe in social enterprise as a model for future good. When I read the three SPI questions again I find all of them totally relevant to a social enterprise mindset and model.
Have a look at this TED talk by Michael Green, which looks at performance on a global level, and analyses some examples to show how the tool is practically useful. Michael comments:
In the areas of nutrition, basic medical care and access to basic knowledge, the world scores a very high 85. Those areas have been focuses of the Millennium Development Goals, which to me says that the world can make progress.
So we can use the SPI to measure world progress and see how government, civil society, business, and the NGO sector can work together to influence a country’s – and the world’s – performance. And we can do this in a very targeted way when we can clearly see important priorities and pressing challenges.
I’m excited about te SPI framework because it uses measures about its people and environment to provide a real sense of how a country is performing. There’s also more competitive opportunity because every country can influence its scorecard from within its own economic bracket. This promotes positive change that can be measured and compared year on year.
I bet you feel like checking out how your country scored… Are there any surprises?